Mario Ledesma is set to leave the Wallabies scrum in a better spot than when he found it, but the departing coach says he has been given much more in return.
Ledesma announced his departure after the Wallabies’ 37-20 win over Argentina a fortnight ago, set to become Jaguares head coach in 2018 after three years with the national side.
Saturday’s Bledisloe clash will be his last with the Wallabies, but he said he wouldn’t be leaving his Australian experience behind quickly.
“I think it made me a better person and from my experience in France, there's a lot of good stuff but a lot of bad stuff that I don’t want to do as a coach but from my experience in Australia, really, there's nothing bad,” he said.
“The first thing (I can take is) to become a coach, you have to forget about your playing career.
“If you stay there you'll never be a good coach. You have to forget that you are a player and try to be more tolerant and have more empathy and think about others.”
Ledesma’s passion and energy have been infectious since the day he joined the national fold, lock Rob Simmons said.
Simmons remembers the first time he met the former Argentinian hooker, in camp, and Ledesma’s influence could be seen almost straight away, with the Wallabies scrum transforming under his tutelage.
“I didn't know much about him to tell you the truth and I think he set his mark on the scrum pretty quick with how passionate he was and it was exciting times ahead from there,” Simmons said.
“To see someone so passionate about something, you've got no choice but to join him and be passionate about it as well.”
“He's one of those guys, who when he came in, brought that passion to try to take us to the next level and he's never let up since and that's where the improvement has come.”
“He's a guy who's going to be sorely missed and it'll be a sad one once he leaves.
His heart always on his sleeve, Ledesma couldn’t keep the emotion at bay when telling the playing group of his decision.
“There was a lot of emotion and real emotion, not sadness, just emotion because of all the things we shared together.”
It’s those memories that Ledesma hoped his charges would hang onto now that his Wallabies tenure was over.
“I really enjoyed my time and I think we had a lot of good moments together,” he said.
“Maybe the best thing is what we shared and if I did make somebody better I'll keep that. They definitely made me better.
“I'm taking much more than what I'm leaving over here. That's good, I'm fine with that, I'm really happy from all that I've learned over here and how I've improved as a person too and as a coach.”
Though he’s leaving with two years left until the World Cup, Ledesma said he had no doubt the next generation of forwards would be ‘killing it’ in Tokyo.
“It's a pretty young tight five and I know for a fact that in two years' time they’ll be killing it,” he said.
“They're already making progress every week and it's really tough being a tight five in international footy and they're competing week in, week out and improving week in, week out.
“It's a really exciting times for Australian rugby in terms of the forwards, but I'm happy with the choice I made.
“I'm not upset but definitely I'm waiting for those guys to finish their blooming.”
Ledesma's focus will be fully on the field, though in his final week.
Australia will take on New Zealand in the third Bledisloe on Saturday in Brisbane, kicking off at 7pm AEST, 8pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Network Ten, Win and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.